Sweden leads the field on matters environmental. For instance, fossil fuels account for only 35 per cent of its total energy supply, compared with over 90 cent in many other European countries. Less than 20 per cent of Swedish household waste goes to landfill, whereas it can be 90 per cent in some other developed nations. And, for years, Stockholm's entire rail network has been run on electricity generated from wind and water, both renewable sources.
The country also sells more biofuel and biofuel-compatible cars than any other European nation. Though, to many, this fact is not something to boast about, the Swedes remain unapologetic, confident in their convictions.
So far this year, Swedish sales of environmentally-friendly cars have increased by an incredible 90 per cent compared with the previous year, meaning that they now account for more than 40 per cent of total new car sales. Flex-fuel vehicles, or FFVs, are by far the most popular type of environmental car, accounting for 70 per cent of the market. Topping the sales tables is the bioethanol E85-run Saab 9-3 BioPower.
In 2005, there were few bioethanol E85 refuelling points in Sweden. However, Saab's launch of its BioPower range kick-started the country's zeal for bioethanol as an alternative to petrol. These refuelling points then started opening at an unprecedented rate, and rival brands soon followed Saab into this market. Nowadays, Swedish drivers can buy FFVs from Volvo, Audi, Volkswagen, Seat, Ford and Renault, to name a few, although Saab remains the FFV market leader.
With almost 1,200 E85 pumps in Sweden, accounting for 25 per cent of the refuelling network, there are some 40,000 Saab BioPowers on the roads. Since the first FFVs, a former Swedish prime minister declared that by 2020 Sweden will not be reliant on fossil fuels - a target his successor has followed.
However, although the Swedes quickly embraced ethanol, questions soon surfaced, as elsewhere in Europe, about the wider environmental and social impact caused by its widespread usage. Even so, Jan Åke Jonsson, Saab AB Managing Director, comments that "...the average Swedish person is ahead of the game when it comes to biofuels. Swedes understand that we have to allow their development. Otherwise we'll never get to second or third generation biofuels".
Jonathan Nash, Saab Great Britain Managing Director, is convinced that FFVs have a place in the UK. "The BioPower cars are relevant today, as petrol and diesel prices soar. As a road transport fuel ethanol brings many advantages. It reduces our dependence on oil and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 70 per cent compared with equivalent petrol cars. Also, it's a flexible solution. For example, the Saab BioPower Hybrid concept car combines flex-fuel engines with hybrid technology to avoid fossil fuels altogether. This is the true beauty of biofuel - where it comes from, how it is produced and the way it is used will evolve and change as technology moves on and, unlike oil, we will never run out of it."